President Obama pledged to move the country forward, without or without the do-nothing gridlocked Congress, and he made good on that promise Thursday. The President, working with the Department of Labor, released a new set of rules that would guarantee workers under federal contracts receive a wage increase to at least $10.10 an hour.
The President first announced his intentions to raise the minimum wage for contract workers during the State of the Union address, earlier this year. The proposal was part of a series of economy-related executive orders that the President has released in recently, after announcing that he would act with his own powers rather than deal with the congressional Republicans.
The federal minimum wage is currently $7.25 an hour and hasn’t seen a raise since 2009. Obama, with the House and Senate Democrats, has proposed the raise before, while tying it to an inflation index. However, the Democrats are currently short of a filibuster-proof majority, and as a result, the Republicans have been able to successfully filibuster any attempts to raise the minimum wage at the federal level — which is to say nothing of their efforts at the state level.
Hundreds of thousands of low-wage workers employed directly or indirectly by the government will see their wages increased. According to Cecilia Munoz, the director of the White Houses’ domestic policy council, the order would raise minimum wage in national park lands, veterans nursing homes, military bases, and other federally-owned and operated places. The minimum wage will also apply to all of the workers in the subcontracting chain, regardless if their direct employers hold a federal contract. While subject to a public comment period, officials confirmed Thursday that the minimum wage hike will apply to all new and renewed federal contracts starting in January of 2015.
“When you hear the president talking about using his pen and his phone to make a difference for middle-class Americans and for those who are working to get into the middle class, this is exactly what he means.”
While on call with reporters, Labor Secretary Tom Perez said that “[t]he federal government should practice what it preaches on the minimum wage. No person who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty.”
Without the input and pushing from groups like Good Jobs Nation, and other labor groups, this executive order may never have happened. It was also backed by the Change to Win union federation, who held a series of protests and walkouts for low-wage food workers employed at federal sites. The group isn’t resting on their victory, however; they sent a letter to the White House and the Labor Department telling them that $10.10 wasn’t high enough, and asking the administration to force federal contractors to sit down and bargain for fair wages.
Indeed, $10.10 isn’t enough; studies done in some areas of the country have shown that the minimum wage should be as high as $25 an hour in order to be a sufficient living wage, and Change to Win is right to not sit around and wait. Change only happens if some force punts the government into it, and while $10.10 is good start, it’s certainly not a good end.
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